Pinterest and copyright issues

There’s a lot of muttering going on across various blogs and Facebook pages this week about the implications of pinning images to Pinterest which aren’t your own.

Pinterest complicated things, and triggered this in part, by updated their Terms Of Service to make it more clear that they have never, and do not intend to, act as if they owned the images you post there, to make money with them or not.

This has spawned a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth by folks who had never considered the idea that the things they were pinning might not be ok to pin.

And I want to state unequivocally IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer), and don’t have the definitive answers to any legal concerns of this nature. So don’t ask.

What I am, however, is an artist. Have my BFA in Photography from Syracuse, where I toiled back when hippies roamed the earth in a program named Experimental Studios (lots of interesting stories about those years, but I digress.) And as an artist, and one who works with art every day, I’m here to tell you, if you put your photos/images online these days, you should be prepared to watermark them in some way or another.

And yes, with Photoshop and some skill, even the best of visible watermarks can be removed. I’ve taken to using to put a digital watermark in any image I upload to the Internet, as their service allows me to track my watermarked images everywhere they go (mostly.) But I also know that anything I upload has the potential to be taken, so I also make sure my images are not of reproduction quality (low resolution and small in size.) It’s what anyone must do to ensure their work won’t be pirated, and even sometimes that’s not enough (see this HuffPo article about UO and their allegedly sticky fingers.)

It’s a shame artists have to take time to police the ‘net to ensure their work isn’t being stolen, I’m sure we’d all rather be spending our time creating than policing. But it’s the situation as it stands now, and hiding one’s head in the sand won’t change it. I will say, that as a fan of Pinterest myself, I work hard to ensure the things I pin are given full attribution, and I tend to not pin things that are private works, but go more for public things, articles on the ‘net, recipes, artwork out of copyright and so on. Just feels better for me doing it that way.

And for those of you who want to make your blogs or website “No-Pin” zones, see this blog post for instructions on how to do so in several different formats.

6 thoughts on “Pinterest and copyright issues

  1. Yep, you hit the nail on the head. And I have wondered, as I trawl around pinterest, if I should ask people to take down our photos I find there. I mean, our work really isn’t about the photos. And they’re so low rez as to be meaningless for any real purposes. But I still wonder about the legalities of it all, not to mention the ethics.

    • They are of high enough of resolution to be used for web advertising, and many small products such as custom postage, pendents, business cards that are sold by many artists/photographers on print on demand sites like

      • Yes, you’re right Joe. All the more reason to use a digital watermarking service that will scan the ‘net for you and give you reports of where your images are posted.

  2. The one good thing about Pinterest is when folks click on the photo, it takes them to the originating website. So it can, in a way, be looked at as driving traffic to your site.

    As well, I believe there is a way to set up a site to be “No-Pin” enabled. Let me do some research on that and get back to you on it.

  3. Well said my ancient hippie friend (tho I am one step older). The Internet has become my favorite can’t live without it/can’t shoot it part of my life. I am in the process of getting a visa to brazil with whom there is reciprocity: we challenge them, they challenge us. Even figuring out which site is really the embassy is hard. I started on one site and realized it was an “expediter”…we have to be soooooooo careful…thanks for your words.

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